Public Records Request to the MBTA about air quality in buses

By | January 14, 2013

I just sent the following letter to the MBTA.

January 14, 2013

Beverly A. Scott
General Manager, MBTA
10 Park Plaza, Suite 3910
Boston, MA 02116

Re: Massachusetts Public Records Request

Dear Ms. Scott:

This is a request under the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M.G.L. Chapter 66, Section 10).

I am requesting that I be provided a copy of the following records:

  • All complaints and inquiries received by the MBTA from passengers in the past year, through any medium including but not limited to telephone, U.S. Mail, facsimile, electronic mail, Web form submission, and Twitter, concerning air-quality issues (e.g., engine fumes) in MBTA buses. If such complaints and inquiries are consistently logged in a single computerized tracking system, then a spreadsheet, report or other document produced from said system, including the details of the relevant complaints, is sufficient and indeed preferable for satisfying this request.
  • Any databases, spreadsheets, studies, reports, memoranda, etc., prepared in the past year by MBTA employees or contractors working on behalf of the MBTA, for the purpose of analyzing or aggregating data about air-quality issues in MBTA buses.
  • All records of inspections and maintenance performed on MBTA buses in the past year to address air-quality issues in MBTA buses that were either identified internally by the MBTA or brought to its attention by passengers.
  • All policies, manuals, and training materials pertaining to maintaining adequate air quality in MBTA buses, including but not limited to any regular air-quality testing performed in bus passenger compartments.
  • The results of any air-quality testing performed in the passenger compartments of MBTA buses in the past year.
  • All policies, manuals, and training materials pertaining to the handling of passenger complaints and inquiries about air-quality issues in MBTA buses.
  • All documents provided by the manufacturers of MBTA buses pertaining to the maintenance of proper air quality in them, including but not limited to operational manuals, recalls, maintenance notifications, etc.
  • Records of complaints, disability claims, etc. by drivers in the past year about illnesses which they claim were caused or exacerbated by air-quality issues in MBTA buses.

I understand that you may charge reasonable costs for copies, as well as for personnel time needed to comply with this request. As required by statute, please provide a good-faith estimate if you expect the total costs for all the bullet items above to exceed $10. In this case, please provide a separate estimate for each bullet point. On the subject of costs, I would like to remind you that records custodians are encouraged to waive fees where disclosure is in the public interest; it is certainly in the public interest to learn more about how widespread the problem of air-quality issues on MBTA buses is and what the MBTA is doing to address it.

Please note that I strongly prefer electronic records over paper, and therefore ask that the records I am requesting be provided in electronic form whenever possible. Any electronic document interchange format commonly used in business (Microsoft Office (DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, etc.), OpenOffice (ODT, ODS, etc.), HTML, RTF, PDF, ZIP, CSV, etc.) is acceptable.

As you may be aware, the Public Records Law requires you to provide me with a written response within 10 calendar days. If you cannot comply with my request, you are statutorily required to provide an explanation in writing.

If you require any additional information or clarification of my request, I can be contacted via email (preferred) at or phone at 617-417-8989.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Jonathan Kamens

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